- Last Updated on 11:12 PM 12/10/13
- BY Joe Chandler
James Smith Jr. had hit a total of four shots including one three-pointer during his first two games as a member of the Halifax County High School varsity basketball team.
He connected on only one shot in the Comets' home Piedmont District opener Tuesday night against Martinsville High School — but it was a winner.
The Comets' freshman banked home a 20-foot shot as time expired in regulation to give the Comets a 48-45 win over the Bulldogs and run the Comets' unblemished early-season record to 3-0.
"I just prayed it went in," Smith said of the game-winning 3-point shot.
"I was wide open. There was nobody close."
The reason no Martinsville High School defender was close to Smith was that teammate Trelanne Johnson had penetrated the lane with the ball and had attracted two defenders to cover him. Johnson kicked the ball out to Smith and Smith buried the 3-pointer for the win.
"It was a good pass from Trelanne " Smith pointed out.
"I just shot a wide-open three."
Smith was not the first option on the play, but, as it turned out, he was the best option.
"It (the ball) was supposed to go to Tavion (Petty)," said the Comets freshman.
"I just rolled back and got the ball."
Trelanne Johnson's pass to Smith was not his only big play of the game. He came up with key rebounds, scored eight of the Comets's 24 first-half points and helped battle Martinsville High School's 6-6 freshman center Devonnte Holland, who scored 31 of the Bulldogs' 45 points, most of them from rebounds and short shots deep in the paint.
"I was fortunate to get a lot of offensive rebounds and tip-ins," Johnson pointed out following his 11-point night.
"That guy was much bigger than me, but I'm much faster. I just beat him to the punch."
Meanwhile Comets junior guard Keyshawn Johnson was laying the Comets' big offensive punch. He scored a team-high 15 points, nine of which came in the final eight and a half minutes of the game.
"I'm the second option at times," K. Johnson explained.
"When Tavion (Petty) is struggling, I've got to get going."
His lone basket in the third quarter came with 3.3 seconds left in the period and put the Comets up 38-33 heading into the fourth quarter. After Holland converted a 3-point play to cut the Comets lead to two points in the first 13 seconds of the fourth quarter, Keyshawn Johnson answered with a layup down the middle of the lane to put the Comets up by four points.
After the Bulldogs wrestled the lead from the Comets with five and a half minutes left, Johnson countered with a layup that allowed the Comets to regain the lead at 42-41 and nailed a 3-pointer on the Comets' next possession to give the Comets a 45-41 lead with four minutes remaining.
The Comets appeared to have the game under control, but it almost slipped away.
Leading 45-43, the Comets got a break when Martinsville High School was cited for an intentional foul with 24.6 seconds left. Treyvon Brandon missed the two free throws for the foul and then the Comets failed to score on the ensuing possession.
Holland made the Comets pay for that miscue by scoring a game-tying basket with 11 seconds left in regulation. Trelanne Johnson and Smith then rescued the Comets with the game-winning play.
The game wasn't the best game the Comets have played thus far. They struggled to defend Holland in the middle and had to overcome some defensive lapses. Despite that and their worst shooting night of the season, the Comets were able to keep the game close and lead much of the way.
The Comets took the lead for the first time on a 3-point play by Keyshawn Johnson with 7:19 left in the second quarter. The lead swapped hands six times in the second quarter before the first half ended in a 24-24 deadlock.
Halifax County took a six-point lead after Trelanne Johnson converted a 3-point play with 6:32 left in the third quarter and led by five points at the end of the third quarter.
"I'm really proud of our guys because for three straight games it has been a struggle, yet we have found a way to win it at the end," remarked Comets Head Coach Larry Epperly.
"In all three games, we have won different ways. I didn't think we played as well tonight as we did in the first two (games), but we did enough to find a way to win."
The Comets had three players to reach double figures in the scoring column, with Keyshawn Johnson tallying 15 points, Trelanne Johnson scoring 11 points and James Burden chipping in 10 points. Petty was next in line with seven points.